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Review of  Verbal Prepositions and Argument Structure

Reviewer: Michael T. Putnam
Book Title: Verbal Prepositions and Argument Structure
Book Author: Mai Ellin Tungseth
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): None
Issue Number: 20.2343

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AUTHOR: Tungseth, Mai Ellin
TITLE: Verbal Prepositions and Argument Structure
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2008

Michael T. Putnam, Carson-Newman

In this monograph, which is a significantly revised version of her dissertation,
Mai Ellin Tungseth investigates diverse verb-PP combinations that arise when the
argument structure of the PP fuses with the verbal argument structure. As noted
by the author herself, generative treatments of natural languages have seen a
growing shift towards micro-comparative research into the behavior of individual
languages and those closely related to it in order to discover and describe the
range of variation possible. Following these two larger goals, Tungseth embarks
to provide an accurate description of the argument structure properties of
certain verb-PP constructions in Norwegian.

Chapter 1 establishes the core issues to be explored as well as the conceptual
stances and theoretical tools that are employed throughout the book. Tungseth
discusses both traditional generative approaches to the lexicon-syntax (argument
structure) relationship. She highlights the longstanding issue concerning the
division of labor between the lexicon and the syntactic component. Rather than
taking a stance in favor of a lexicalist approach (cf. Levin & Rappaport Havov
1995) or launching strong support for an exo-skeletal approach to argument
structure (i.e., that the argument structure is solely determined by the
syntactic structure in which items appear, cf. Hale & Keyser 1993; Ritter &
Rosen 1998; Borer 2005), Tungseth adopts Ramchand's (2008) weakly
constructionist view of first-phase syntax. In this model, which seeks to
abandon the need for a separate lexical module where individual lexical items
are listed together with their argument structure information, the information
which is traditionally associated with lexical items can be decomposed into a
combination of maximally three sub-events, each represented by a separate
functional projection. Quoting Tungseth (p. 14), ''there is a causing or
initiation sub-event _InitP_ (for initiation), a process sub-event _ProcP_ which
denotes a transition or change, and a result sub-event _ResP_ which gives the
endpoint or final state of the event.''

Examining instances where a verb of motion combines with different types of
spatial prepositional phrases is the topic of Chapter 2. This chapter presents a
clear, representative sample of how directional/goal of motion readings for PPs
arise. Here Tungseth engages in a lengthy discussion of the difference between
directional and locational PPs reflected in the basic distinction between Place
and Path, where ''Place is associated with stative location and Path is
associated with motion and direction'' (p. 27). In this chapter to gain a clearer
picture of the patterns which emerge from verb-PP combinations, diverse data and
diagnostics are provided to demonstrate the different semantic interpretations
resulting from PPs combining with verbs of manner of motion. What emerges from
this rather thorough analysis of locative and directional prepositions is the
following: Tungseth proposes an analysis ''where locative PPs are invariably
PlacePs, but where a PlaceP can get a goal interpretation when it appears in the
complement of the projection of a verb. On the locative interpretation, the
PlaceP appears higher up in the structure, right adjoined to the highest
projection of the verb, where it modifies the complex event'' (p. 55). Tungseth
capitalizes on these proposed structural distinctions between Place and PathPs
within the Ramchandian-framework explored in this study.

Chapter 3 takes somewhat of a detour from the verb-PP combinations to provide an
analysis of benefactive (with datives) constructions in Norwegian and German. In
her discussion, Tungseth concentrates on two classes of datives, namely datives
with verbs of creation/obtaining, and datives appearing with transitive of
unaccusative verbs. These constructions are analyzed along the guidelines of a
decompositional event structure as outlined in the first chapter, combined with
assumptions about the specifics of double object constructions discussed
recently in the literature (e.g., Pesetsky (1995) and Harley (2002)). Tungseth
presents evidence in favor of the claim that benefactive double object
constructions involve a transfer of possession, with this possessional
relationship involving a null preposition. Following den Dikken (1995), Tungseth
champions an analysis where the indirect object in the double object
construction is the internal argument of a null preposition which takes the
direct object as its external argument. The distinction between German and
Norwegian and how double object constructions with benefactive datives boils
down to whether or not a particular language exhibits morphological case (such
as German). Languages without morphological case (e.g., Norwegian) require the
empty preposition to incorporate into the Pred (the abstract predicate BE)
whereas morphological dative case can assign case to the indirect object in
languages like German and does not require incorporation. Strong evidence in
favor of this analysis is found in data from German that does involve
creation/consumption verbs; even in these verbs that permit extra dative-marked
participants, they all carry the meaning that the predicates must entail the
attainment of a result state, that the predicate must introduce an internal
argument, and that a certain dynamicity must be involved (excluding stative

In chapter 4, Tungseth grapples with the polysemous preposition _til_ 'to' in
Norwegian that can combine with predicates that are either degree achievements
or semelfactives. The data below (Tungseth's (4c) and (4d), p. 126) illustrate
this point:

1. Han sparket bowlingkula.
He kicked bowling.ball.the
'He kicked the bowling ball (once).' or 'He was kicking the bowling ball.

2. Han sparket til bowlingkula.
He kicked to bowling.ball.the
'He kicked the bowling ball (once).'

The meaning of 'til' in (1b) is slightly different from the spatial end point
interpretation. When 'til' is present, only the punctual interpretation (rather
than the iterative) is possible. The remainder of this chapter focuses on the
distinction resulting from the additional 'til' to semelfactive and degree
achievement verbs in Norwegian. This book concludes with Chapter 5 and raises
some interesting and important issues for future research.

Overall this work is a strong addition to generative studies on argument
structure, in particular with its detailed treatment of verb-PP concatenations.
Furthermore, the choice to focus almost exclusively on Norwegian to provide a
bird's eye view of the properties of these verb-PP combinations reached the
author's goals outlined in the first chapter of the work to explore the
micro-variant properties of Norwegian while at the same time contribute to the
discussion on argument structure beyond Norwegian.

One weak point of the analyses involves the lack of detail in some aspects of
the analysis. Take, for example, the discussion of the A'-movement of German
Dative Shift in Section 3.4.2; here Tungseth simply assumes that 'strong
features' take care of the displacement of the (dative) indirect object.
Although the empirical observations are on task, the analysis could be
significantly strengthened by discussing some of the more recent advancements of
the connection between DP-licensing and case assignment in the Minimalist
Program (cf. McFadden 2004). Another minor point of weakness is the typos (with
some of them being severe enough to result in fragments and incomplete
sentences) that occur throughout the manuscript. Such errors detract from the
quality and readability of an otherwise superior piece of academic work.

Perhaps the best compliment that I can give this monograph is that Tungseth
recognizes throughout the text that this study is a springboard to more in-depth
treatments of these data and related phenomena. Although there are indeed many
avenues yet to be explored with regard to the verb-PP combinations concerning
the syntax-semantic interface, this work will be a strong contributor to this
research program in the coming years.

Borer, H. 2005. [Structuring Sense: An Exosketal Trilogy]: Volume 2: The normal
course events. New York: OUP.

Den Dikken, M. 1995. _Particles: On the syntax of verb-particle, triadic, and
causative constructions_. New York, NY: OUP.

Hale, M. & S. Keyser. 1993. On argument structure and the lexical expression of
syntactic relations. In _The View from Building 20: Essays in linguistics in
honor of Sylvain Bromberger_, K. Hale & S.J. Keyser (eds.) [Current Studies in
Linguistics 24]. pp. 53-109. Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press.

Harley, H. 2002. Possession and the double object construction. In _Linguistics
Variation Yearbook_, J. Rooryck & P. Pica (eds.), Volume 2, pp. 29-68.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Levin, B. & M. Rappaport-Havov. 1995. _Unaccusativity_. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McFadden, T. 2004. The position of morphological case in the derivation: A study
on the syntax-morphology interface. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.

Pesetsky, D. 1995. _Zero Syntax_. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ramchand, G. 2008. _Verb Meaning and the Lexicon: A first phase syntax_. Number
116 in Cambridge Studies in Linguistics. Cambridge: UP.

Ritter, E. & S. Rosen. 1998. Delimiting events in syntax. In _The Projection of
Arguments: Lexical and compositional factors_, M. Butt & W. Geuder (eds.), pp.
135-164. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

Michael T. Putnam is Assistant Professor of German & Linguistics at
Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN. His research interests include,
syntactic theory, morphology, lexical semantics, Germanic linguistics,
German-language speech enclaves throughout the world (i.e., Sprachinseln),
language contact and language attrition.